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france 24 France

French PM calls for unified response to migrant crisis

© Denis Charlet, AFP | French Prime Minister Manuel Valls in the northern port city of Calais on August 31, 2015

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2015-08-31

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called for a unified response to Europe’s migrant crisis during a visit to Calais on Monday, while European authorities announced that they are giving France €5 million to build a new refugee camp in the port city.

“All of Europe is affected by this exceptionally serious crisis, it must mobilise,” Valls said following a visit to the city’s Jules Ferry refugee centre, where he was joined by Interior Minister Bernard Cazneuve, as well as European Commissioners Frans Timmermans and Dimitris Avramopoulos.

“We must bring European solutions, efficient and sustainable solutions. We’re working on it, and we’re working on it together,” the prime minister said.

Timmermans announced that the European Commission was giving France an extra €5 million ($5.6 million) to build a new refugee camp with the capacity to shelter an additional 1,500 people in Calais.

There are currently an estimated 3,500 migrants in the port city, according to Valls, many of whom live in a squalid, makeshift camp known as “the jungle” that abuts the Jules Ferry refugee centre.

Work on a new camp is scheduled for 2016.

Valls said Europe's migrant problem can't be solved with "barbed wire" alone, and urged more help for migrants with legitimate asylum claims. However, he insisted that economic migrants must be sent home.

Emergency EU meeting

Valls’s visit to Calais came just a day after Luxembourg, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, called an emergency meeting of the bloc’s 28 member states on Sept. 14 to discuss the crisis.

The number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe has surpassed 300,000 this year, up from 219,000 in the whole of 2014, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

Thirty-seven people died when their boat sank off Libya’s coast on Sunday, the second such fatal accident at sea within days. The Italian coastguard said some 1,600 migrants had been rescued in the Mediterranean and brought to Italy over the weekend.

At least 2,500 migrants have died since January, most of them drowning in the Mediterranean after arduous journeys fleeing war, oppression or poverty in Syria and other parts of the Middle East and Africa or beyond.

The horrors faced by migrants were brought to the heart of the European mainland on Friday when 71 bodies, including those of a baby girl and three other children were found in an abandoned refrigeration truck in Austria.

The dead, believed to be refugees from Syria or possibly Afghanistan, had been packed into the truck with just 1 square metre (10 sq ft) of space per five people, police said on Sunday, as initial forensic tests indicated they had suffocated.

Hungarian police arrested a fifth suspect, a Bulgarian citizen, in connection with the deaths. Three Bulgarians and one Afghan had already been arrested.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

Date created : 2015-08-31

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